Sudden death of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit

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Medina Spirit led all the way to win the Kentucky Derby on May 1.
Medina Spirit led all the way to win the Kentucky Derby on May 1.  Photo by sniggie

This year’s Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit has died suddenly, the three-year-old collapsing near the finish line after completing a workout on the main track at Santa Anita on December 6.

Medina Spirit died immediately, with a statement from the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) describing it as a “sudden death”. His exercise rider Juan Ochoa was unhurt in the incident.

As per CHRB regulations, a necropsy is being undertaken on Medina Spirit at a California Animal Health and Food Safety diagnostic laboratory under the auspices of the University of California, Davis.

“Cause of death cannot be determined until the necropsy and toxicology tests have been completed,” the CHRB said.

Medina Spirit, from the first crop of Prontonico (by Giant’s Causeway) was born on April 5, 2018 in Ocala, Florida and was bred by Gail Rice. His dam, Mongolian Changa (by Dynaformer son Brilliant Speed and from the Unbridled mare, Bridled), was initially unable to produce milk so Rice used stored colostrum until the mare’s milk came in.

He attracted little attention when he was entered in the Ocala Breeders Sale of January, 2019. There was only one bid and he sold for the minimum $US1000 to Christy Whitman, who later resold the colt to bloodstock agent Gary Young for $35,000 for Saudi Arabian businessman Amr Zedan at the Ocala July Two-Year-Old Sale. Zedan named the horse for Medina, his hometown and the second holiest city in Islam after Mecca.

After he went into training with Bob Baffert, he outshone his more expensive stablemates. He won his maiden race in December, 2020 at Los Alamitos.

In May 2021, he bested a field of 19 in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, including unbeaten favourite Essential Quality, and earning $US1.86 million for his efforts.

Medina Spirit’s last race was on November 6, when he was second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar.

Trainer Bob Baffert said his entire barn was devastated by the death. “Medina Spirit was a great champion, a member  of our family who was loved by all, and we are deeply mourning his loss. I will always cherish the proud and personal memories of Medina Spirit and his tremendous spirit.”

Medina Spirit led all the way to win the Kentucky Derby on May 1.
Medina Spirit on the backstretch of Churchill Downs on the way to winning the Kentucky Derby on May 1. Photo by sniggie

Zedan Racing Stables posted a video tribute on social media to Medina Spirit, saying “our hearts are heavy with sadness. Much love and thanks to this wonderful racehorse and everyone who stood by his side. Rest in Peace.”

Medina Spirit was ridden by John Velazquez to win the Kentucky Derby on May 1.
Medina Spirit was ridden by John Velazquez to win the Kentucky Derby on May 1. Photo by sniggie

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